Arkansas Politics

An Arkansas House panel has endorsed a proposal that would clarify how control of county election commissions is determined in the event neither party holds a majority of statewide offices.

The Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus is backing a lawmaker's repeat attempt to stop the state from recognizing Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day.

A House panel rejected the plan last week.

Republican Rep. Nate Bell of Mena met with the 15-member caucus on Monday. He said afterward he will run his bill again, but doesn't know when he will do so.

Arkansas is one of three states that celebrates Lee and King on the same day. Bell's bill would remove Lee from the state holiday on the third Monday of January.

Before his run for Arkansas Governor, Mike Ross was looking forward to retirement from Congress and serving as SVP for Governmental Affairs for regional electricity transmission operator Southwest Power Pool.

The company announced on Monday that Ross was elected to that post and Malinda See as Vice President of Corporate Services.

“I am so pleased to welcome Mike and Malinda to the officer team,” said Nick Brown, SPP CEO. “They bring unique perspectives and leadership experiences that will immediately add to our already strong executive group.”

Delta Regional Authority

The state's director of rural services has been tapped to serve as Governor Asa Hutchinson's designee and alternate to the Delta Regional Authority's board of governors. Hutchinson's office made the announcement Friday that Amy Fecher would be the designee.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) speaking to reporters at the Capitol about his budget proposal.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Governor Asa Hutchinson is proposing an overall spending increase of three percent in his budget plan for the next fiscal year. The Republican governor released his proposal to lawmakers Tuesday. General education, Medicaid, and prisons would see an increase in funding. Higher education and pre-K would remain flat while many state agencies will take a one percent cut.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR

The week ahead in the Arkansas Legislature promises action on Governor Asa Hutchinson’s signature tax cut proposal, reaction to the governor’s Medicaid expansion plans, the reevaluation of celebrating a Confederate general on the same day as a civil rights icon, and the release of a state budget proposal.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee
Library of Congress

A bill filed in the legislature Wednesday seeks to end Arkansas’s official observance of Robert E. Lee’s birthday, which falls on the same date as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Republican Nate Bell, typically aligned with the conservative side of his party, filed the legislation removing the Confederate general’s birthday from the list of state holidays.

However, Bell said he does not personally think it is inappropriate to celebrate Confederates and civil rights leaders side by side.

Jonathan Dismang
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Governor Asa Hutchinson’s top priority this legislative session, a $100 million income tax cut, passed its first hurdle Wednesday in an amended form. The senate committee on Revenue and Taxation advanced the one percent cut for individuals earning between $21,000 and $75,000 a year. The full senate is expected to take up the measure Thursday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) talks about why he's moving back his budget plan in the Governor's Conference Room. Former Gov. Mike Beebe's portrait hangs above Hutchinson.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

For the second time since the Arkansas legislature convened, a little over a week ago, Governor Asa Hutchinson has announced he will move back a public rollout of his budget proposal.

Hutchinson said he is delaying the release of his budget until next Tuesday for two reasons, “because of the emphasis on the health care reform remarks on Thursday, and because I wanted to give the legislature some time to give me informal feedback.”

State Rep. Julie Mayberry (R-East End)
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A bill filed Thursday in the Arkansas legislature seeks to prevent women from having a drug-induced abortion administered by a doctor via telemedicine. Two Republican women, state Senator Missy Irvin of Mountain Home and state Representative Julie Mayberry of East End, sponsored the legislation requiring a doctor to be physically present when a woman takes Mifepristone (RU-486). The attending physician must also attempt to make a follow-up appointment.